Apple Watch Ultra review roundup: Best yet, with tradeoffs

in Apple Watch edited September 21
Reviews for the Apple Watch Ultra have arrived, with praise the multi-day battery life, Action Button, and rugged design.

The Apple Watch Ultra is still an Apple Watch first and foremost
The Apple Watch Ultra is still an Apple Watch first and foremost

Apple announced the new Apple Watch Ultra on September 7 during its Far Out event. This new premium wearable ships to customers on Friday, September 23.

The Apple Watch Ultra packs in more sensors, more battery life, and a larger display into a massive 49mm case targeted at extreme sports users, and the Apple-selected channels have had them for about a week.

The Verge calls the Apple Watch Ultra one of the best debuts in a new product category in a while. While most people won't take advantage of the new features, the bigger display and rugged design go a long way. However, it is a bit clunky on smaller wrists.

Apple designed the Apple Watch Ultra to appeal to the extreme sports crowd, but if anyone, this appeals most to the intermediate athlete looking to move up to advanced levels. At the least, it's an aspirational watch that won't threaten Garmin just yet.

Apple Watch Ultra can function as a dive watch
Apple Watch Ultra can function as a dive watch

CNET says the Apple Watch Ultra is the most exciting Apple Watch in a long time. The large display, long battery life, rugged design, and bright display appeal to big watch wearers and athletes.

The $800 price and 49mm case size could drive some customers away. However, it is priced competitively with other sports watches with titanium construction and OLED displays.

The customizable Action Button is CNET's favorite new hardware feature. Attaching different functions to this button offers a lot of utility that's missing from other Apple Watch models.

CNBC says that the Apple Watch Ultra is worth it for serious athletes, but an unnecessary splurge for anyone else. The 49mm case size is also aggressively large and isn't designed with women in mind.

The 36 hour battery life is amazing and part of what makes the watch so large, but there are multiple tradeoffs for the size. The reviewer says the Apple Watch Ultra was just too big and bulky to wear to bed.

Otherwise, this is a great wearable for people who don't mind a bulky watch. By combining multiple activities into one smartwatch, Apple's offering stands out from other competitors like Garmin, who tailor watches to specific activities.

YouTube personality MKBHD used the Apple Watch Ultra across an entire weekend of sports activities and sleep tracking. Two days, two nights, and the start of the third day left the watch with 20% battery.

The $800 Apple Watch Ultra is overkill for most people, but attractive for edge cases like extreme sports users. If you need to ask, you probably don't need it.

Those who want the best Apple Watch with the brightest display and longest battery life -- and have a big enough wrist -- Apple Watch Ultra can be a daily wear watch. It probably won't look as good in formal wear though.

Apple Watch Ultra has exclusive features not available on regular Apple Watches
Apple Watch Ultra has exclusive features not available on regular Apple Watches

Wall Street Journal describes the Apple Watch Ultra as an excellent smartwatch for athletes, but not the most extreme. The multi-day battery life will likely be the biggest draw for customers, but it won't replace a dedicated Garmin.

After a two day, two night trip to the mountains, the Apple Watch Ultra was at 19% battery. A total of 13 hours and 20 minutes of GPS tracking took place across these two days.

The Apple Watch Ultra lacks a dedicated offline map feature which is available by default in some Garmin watches. Third-party applications may be able to bridge this gap, but only time will tell.

If you've got a large wrist, consider yourself a moderate athlete, and want a smartwatch that unlocks your Mac -- Apple Watch Ultra is for you.

Where to buy the Apple Watch Ultra at a discount

Shoppers looking to save on the Apple Watch Ultra can take advantage of $20 off AppleCare at Apple Authorized Reseller Adorama. You can activate the discount in two easy steps:

  1. Shop through this activation link and add the Apple Watch Ultra to your shopping cart. AppleCare can then be tacked on in your cart.
  2. Then add exclusive promo code APINSIDER in the Payments section during checkout. You should see the discount on AppleCare reflected in your order subtotal.
Need help with the coupon? Check out these step-by-step activation instructions.

You can also compared offers across Apple resellers, including Amazon, in our Apple Watch Ultra Price Guide.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 6
    I’m pretty excited about this option. I won’t let myself buy it until I try one on—I have small wrists for someone of my size.  I don’t care so much how it looks, but I want it to feel
    like it fits… dress shirt cuffs are already a problem!
  • Reply 2 of 6
    I like the stainless steel, however, since the ultra was the same price, I decided to give it a try this time around. If I don’t like it, I do have 14 days to return it and get the stainless steel. I like some of the new features, such as enhanced, GPS, and the programmable button. We will see, it arrives next week.
  • Reply 3 of 6
    bageljoey said:
    I’m pretty excited about this option. I won’t let myself buy it until I try one on—I have small wrists for someone of my size.  I don’t care so much how it looks, but I want it to feel
    like it fits… dress shirt cuffs are already a problem!
    Shouldn’t be. Remember that a watch should never be worn under a shirt cuff. It is worn between the cuff and you hand. 
  • Reply 4 of 6
    Ever since this has been announced I have been debating between it and a Garmin Fenix.  I prefer the Ultra in almost every feature except for battery life. Realistically my current Fitbit Versa does most of what I need, but these two devices do so much more.   I haven't bought a prior apple watch simply due to battery life, but the Ultra's getting 2-3 days for the early reviewers which is much more palatable.  The Fenix can go weeks or a month depending on model, but the UI isn't nearly as good as the Apple watch for day to day stuff outside of activity tracking.  My use case is just light hiking/cycling, so both devices are complete overkill.
  • Reply 5 of 6
    I am whatever the opposite of an extreme sports enthusiast is (I think that would be "couch potato"). The Ultra is of absolutely no use for me. The Apple Watch SE is more than enough for my needs. I definitely don't need the Ultra. 

    I am still getting one, though!
  • Reply 6 of 6
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,993member
    As a professional diver, I can't see the Ultra ever being a serious dive computer.  The biggest caveat is having to pay for a subscription in order to actually use it as a dive watch.  That alone will preclude me from ever buying one even for use as a backup computer.  

    Dive computers are usually kept for many years.  I have two dive computers, one is 20+ years old and the other is 11 years old.  If I had to pay a subscription to use these, I'd exceed the cost of a new dive computer.  No thank you.  I will stick with a dedicated dive computer that doesn't resort to screwing their customer base.

    The second issue is serviceability.  Dive computers require servicing every so often to keep the water resistance going.  Salt water is harsh on these delicate systems and I wonder if Apple will have something in place to allow servicing.

    Air integration is the final piece.  I suspect that will eventually be available.

    Will be interesting to see real-world use of this.  If Oceanic offered a one-time fee to permanently use it as a Dive computer, I at least would give it a more serious consideration.
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